If you’re subjected to a lot of loud sound and don’t wear hearing protection, you might experience hearing loss later in life. Hearing loss might be in your future, for example, if you work on a noisy factory floor without hearing protection. These hearing loss causes are rather common. But within the past few years, a new cause has entered the fray. Yup, you guessed it, Covid-19.
People across the world have been ravaged by all of the many symptoms and side-effects of Covid-19, and that might include issues with hearing.
Maybe? Probably? Okay, Covid-19 is still a very new virus. And scientists are discovering something new about it all the time. Some research does suggest that Covid-19 is connected to hearing loss, but that research is also rather preliminary and is still waiting for more data to back it up. So let’s take a look at where things stand currently.
So can hearing loss be triggered by Covid-19?
So here’s the first thing to keep in mind: The Covid-19 vaccine has never been proven to cause hearing loss. That’s true for all of the presently approved and obtainable vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna to Novovax. That just isn’t how these vaccines work, they don’t affect your ears at all. It would be like eating a nice healthy salad and then claiming that it caused your diabetes.
This applies to the brand new mRNA vaccines and the more established ones. For the majority of people, the risks are greatly exceeded by the advantages. Talk with your doctor and seek reputable information if you have any questions about vaccines.
Okay… with that off the table, let’s discuss hearing loss.
So how is hearing loss triggered by Covid?
So how is hearing loss caused by this? Specifically, how does this lead to sensorineural hearing loss, the kind of hearing loss that is the result of damage to your auditory system and is generally permanent?
Well, there are a couple of hypotheses. These theories, we should point out, aren’t always mutually exclusive. They could both be true!
Theory #1: inflammation
Covid-19 produces inflammation in your upper respiratory tract, and the theory is that this inflammation ultimately affects your ears. After all, your nose, mouth, and ears are all interconnected. This may produce hearing loss in a couple of ways:
- Fluid buildup: Fluid has a harder time draining because inflammation has made the drainage pathways more narrow. It becomes harder and harder to hear as this fluid continues to accumulate. After the symptoms clear up, your hearing will typically return to normal (if this happens, you’re not dealing with sensorineural hearing loss).
- Damaged cells: It’s important to remember that viruses reproduce by hijacking your body’s own cells. The result is damage. And because Covid impacts your vascular system, this can sometimes cause damage to the vascular connections between your brain and your ears. This would be considered sensorineural hearing loss, and would likely be essentially permanent.
When hearing loss is a result of a buildup due to inflammation, steroids can often help. Researchers are still searching for a way to prevent sensorineural hearing loss due to cell damage. It’s unclear, based on this research, exactly how much protection vaccines give you against this type of damage, but it seems obvious that it’s better than no protection.
Theory #2: Long Covid
The next hypothesis is more substantial when it comes to patients’ experience, but a bit less comprehended in terms of cause and effect. There’s something called Long Covid which you, by now, have probably heard about.
People will go through symptoms of Covid when they are dealing with Long Covid, long after they have recovered from the actual virus. Often, a debilitating bout of long Covid that drags out for months, or longer, after having Covid itself, is experienced. There’s no question, Long Covid is real, but scientists still aren’t sure why.
Data about long-term hearing difficulties was systematically reviewed by scientists and a report was published in February 2021. The review discovered that:
- Tinnitus was reported by 14.8%
- 7.6% of people reported hearing loss after becoming ill with Covid.
- 7.2% of people reported vertigo
Whether these auditory problems are caused by Long Covid or just associated with it isn’t really clear, but it goes without saying there’s some kind of relationship. Long covid seems to trigger a broad constellation of symptoms, including those that affect your hearing.
Anecdote or evidence?
It’s anecdotal when someone states that their hearing has been off since they got Covid. It’s one single narrative. And while it’s a fact of life for them, it’s not necessarily enough for scientists to go on when developing treatment plans. So research is key here.
As scientists unearth more evidence that these hearing difficulties are relatively extensive, they’re able to establish a clearer picture of the dangers associated with Covid-19.
Of course, there’s still more to learn. Research is continuing, which means the link between Covid-19 and hearing loss isn’t actually proven or unproven. No matter how you developed hearing loss, however, it’s still crucial that you seek treatment as soon as you can. So if you suspect your hearing isn’t what it once was, call us to schedule an appointment.